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New Adult vs. Young Adult: What’s the difference?

The main difference between New Adult and Young Adult books may surprise you

New Adult is one of the newest genres in the book world, having only been established in 2009.

While more mature themes and topics like sex are definitely a big part of the New Adult genre, that isn't the only thing that separates it from the traditional Young Adult.

Here are the six key things that classify a book as New Adult.

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1. Self-publishing sensation

The genre really took off following the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. Prior to the worldwide success, publishers didn't really know what to do with the college years in books. They appealed to that market, or so they thought, with Young Adult titles that generally only have protagonists in their teens. Thanks to the self-publishing world, publishers realized there was definitely a desire for novels that focused more on entering adulthood rather than coming of age.

The main difference between New Adult and Young Adult books may surprise you

2. Life after legal age

The protagonists of New Adult are generally a little older than young adult. Typically they fall between the age range of 18–25. Themes can cross over between New Adult and Young Adult, but New Adult often takes it a step further and really shows a character's struggle, often not very pretty or perfect, as they discover where they fit in the world.

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The main difference between New Adult and Young Adult books may surprise you

3. Career choices

Where Young Adult often deals with coming of age, New Adult is more about establishing oneself in the world now that the protagonist has a sense of direction. Of course, the self-discovery process during this phase isn't necessarily any easier. If anything, things get more complicated as characters struggle to find the balance of life on their own.

The main difference between New Adult and Young Adult books may surprise you

4. Leaving home

Along with deciding on careers and exploring opportunities for success, the protagonist is often seen on their own for the first time. Whether they are in college, entering the military of starting their first job, there is no longer a parental figure watching over them. The protagonist's choices are his or her own, often for the first time in his or her life.

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The main difference between New Adult and Young Adult books may surprise you

5. It's not a fairy tale

Young Adult often leaves one with hopeful optimism that can be a bit unrealistic, like a Disney movie. New Adult strives for that realism by dealing with deeper, darker themes. Though generally the protagonist comes out on top in the end, the journey is often long and perilous in a grittier way than Young Adult.

The main difference between New Adult and Young Adult books may surprise you

6. Yes, sex, of course

OK, OK, OK, so sex isn't the only big difference between New Adult and Young Adult. In fact, we would argue that the phase of life struggles are what separate the genres. But that being said, New Adult wouldn't be New Adult without some good romps in the sack. You can thank Fifty Shades of Grey for defining this element of the genre and making it a pivotal component to the common story lines.

If you're interested in learning more about the New Adult genre, we recommend picking up some of the great titles that have been released in the past few years, including Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire and Losing It by Cora Carmack.

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